Johnny Sexton kicked 11 points for Ireland against the Springboks. Photo: Reuters

The Springboks were dismayingly exposed by a ruthlessly efficient Ireland team in Dublin on Saturday night and remain winless in the northern hemisphere since they beat Argentina in the bronze medal playoff at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

And the way they played on Saturday night, if the Boks are going to get as far as the playoffs in the 2019 World Cup in Japan, there is going to have to be major calls made by the South African Rugby Union as soon as humanely possible.

In the week that South Africa is likely to be confirmed as hosts of the 2023 world Cup, the Bok bosses are going to have to shift focus to the alarming state of their ailing product and the ineptitude of the coaching staff.

It is going to be embarrassing to say the least for the SA Rugby representatives in London on Wednesday.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the South African demise was that it was all so predictable.

The strengths of the home team that were hyped all week were vividly displayed from start to finish – superior game management by their playmakers and set-piece dominance meant there was always going to be one victor.

The heavy underfoot northern hemisphere conditions indeed suited the polished kicking game of their experienced halfback pairing of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, while asking questions of Ross Cronjé and Elton Jantjies.

It had been said by all and sundry that Murray and Sexton would put the Boks under pressure with their generalship, and it came to pass. So, too, did the envisaged set scrum ascendancy of the home side.

In the first half an hour in particular, the Boks had no platform to work from.

They were under pressure in the scrums and the shrewd Irish tactic of keeping the ball in play meant precious few lineouts, thus largely removing a Bok strong point from the equation.

And when the Boks did get rare attacking opportunities, there was either poor decision-making or execution.

Centre Damian de Allende, for instance will rue his option of putting the ball to boot early in the game when he had a three-man overlap.

Siya Kolisi was another to stop a promising attack in its track when a pass meant for Courtnall Skosan went past the unmarked wing and into touch

To be fair, the Boks had the most unfortunate of starts when just a minute into the game tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen fell awkwardly after a heavy hit from Irish centre Bundee Aki and was carted off.

It was the 28-year-old’s comeback match after having broken his arm in the Rugby Championship match against the Wallabies in Perth in early September.

It meant Wilco Louw was in action decidedly sooner than planned by the coaching staff, and while Louw possibly should have been selected in the first place given Oosthuizen had taken no contact since that arm injury, it diminished the Boks’ planned impact off the bench in the second half.

Louw more than held his own in the set scrums, but the Boks were twice penalised for scrum infringements in the first 10 minutes, with Irish tighthead Tadhg Furlong getting the edge over Bok veteran Tendai Mtawarira.

Ireland’s control of the game meant penalties were routinely conceded by the South Africans and by the end of the first quarter, Sexton had nailed nine points.

And the score advanced to 14-0 when the Boks could not deal with a precision box kick and the loose ball spurted out to right wing Andrew Conway, who sped home for a try.

The first half at least ended on a fortunate note for the South Africans after Ireland failed to convert a penalty advantage in the Bok 22 into points.

They had the penalty but stout Bok defence kept the visitors from scoring a try and deprived Sexton of a fourth penalty goal.

And it got a touch better for the Boks when they scored the first points of the second half via a Jantjies penalty following a high tackle on Mtawarira.

But that was just about it for the Boks. The second half fight back could not materialise because of the ever escalating error and penalty count.

Mtawarira had been industrious with his ball carries, but it was not a surprise when he was the first of the starting line-up to be subbed, with Steven Kitshoff introduced in the 55th minute.

Kitshoff was on the field just long enough to see a Sexton penalty sail between the uprights.

At 17-3, Coetzee’s hand was forced and Handre Pollard came on at flyhalf for Jantjies, and De Allende was pulled off for Francois Venter.

It really did not matter. It was a losing cause, and the scoreline grew depressingly bad for the visitors when Irish replacement Rhys Ruddock bustled over after a break down the touchline by Conway.

And it became a complete disaster when Rob Herring scored, with the conversion putting the score into the 30s.

The rout was completed in the 80th minute when wing Jacob Stockdale scored his team’s fourth try.


Ireland 38 – Tries: Andrew Conway, Rhys Ruddock, Rob Herring, Jacob Stockdale. Conversion: Johnny Sexton (1), Joey Carbery (2). Penalties: Sexton (4).

South Africa 3 – Penalty: Elton Jantjies (1).

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